Saturday, February 23, 2013

Handy pdf tools

I used to dislike PDFs. I couldn't copy and paste and scrolling was a mess. Lately I have been warming to the format mostly because of Amazon's Kindle. With the reader I can stack a bunch of documents in one place and avoid printing physical pages. Though primitive, the zoom feature allows me to zero in on a desired image (I still use Kindle 2). Reading the whole document still requires a larger screen, but that is another story. What I want to post today  are some shoutouts to handy PDF tools that I have come across during my research. Not absolutely the best, but the best I've seen.

All of these are free and lightweight.

Windows reader

Sumatra PDF is the best alternative that I have found to the standard Acrobat Reader which has become bloated over the years. It is both snappy and lightweight. Foxit is a common alternative, but I find Sumatra better as it doesn't try to sneak in extra toolbars and other rigmarole.

* to PDF converter

DoPDF allows you to convert any printable document to a PDF. It is very basic, but allows you to select the output resolution. It works by installing itself as a printer driver that you can invoke with the regular Control+P shortcut. If you need to convert a HTML page (regular Internet webpage) to PDF a better alternative is…

Google Chrome

Because it avoids truncating images at page breaks, is faster (usually not a problem) and can generally output a smaller file.

Screenshot Captor

This one is one of the most versatile screenshot programs out there. It has a screen-to-pdf feature that does the job


PDFescape is an online tool that has a whole array of editing functions. Add text anywhere, fields and free-form. It can also rotate your documents and split or merge them. It is limited to 10 MB/100 pages. You can work around this limitation by working on a smaller subset at a time and then joining all the parts together on your system; for that last part there is…

Merging and splitting larger documents

PDF split and merge (PDFsam) is a downloadable open-source program. Donations starts at €1. This one installs a non pdf browser toolbar in the express settings, so be careful.

Sometimes one needs to merge or stich many pages into a single page in a manner of a long piano roll. That can be done too! The online service PDFdu provides the service hassle free. 


So far I have not had good results with the few tests I've made, but if your pdf is mostly text,  you might want to try out this one.

Scripting tools

If you know a scripting language that has a module repository such as Perl with CPAN or Python with Pypi, you might want to check what is available there. Not tried it myself yet, but I believe that with those you might come up with better custom tools for your needs.

Search engines

Surprisingly enough there are dedicated search engines out there:

Watch out! Google/webutation apparently do not like this site


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